Shooting the EM-2 in .280 British

I had 10 rounds of .280 British ammunition to work with today, so I opted for several rounds in semiauto (including some slow motion shots) and then one burst at the end. The .280 cartridge is less powerful than the 7.62mm NATO, but in my opinion the EM-2 remains a rifle much better used in semiauto than full auto. In semiauto I feel that it gives an excellent balance of power and recoil impulse, and is a very comfortable rifle to shoot.

I have previously had a chance to fire one of the EM-2 rifles in 7.62mm NATO, and the difference in feel between the two is notable. The NATO cartridge really does show its power, and the EM-2 just isn’t really designed for that. I expect the same difference would be quite evident in early FAL rifles that used the .280 cartridge, which would be much better balanced weapons than the FALs ultimately adopted in 7.62mm.

Two of my rounds were damaged by feed malfunctions, unfortunately – but this rifle has been fired extensively as part of the Shrivenham working reference collection, and 60+ years will take a toll on a prototype rifle! I am grateful to the School for allowing me this chance!


  1. I have just found the documents I got from the National Archive in Kew covering the EM-2’s infantry trials in Malaya.

    Would you like a copy?

  2. Hearing all the praises one has to ask: why this was not bases for next development in place of SA80; in 5,56×45 of course? Maybe I missed something in previous SA80/85 series.

    • Common sense of the masses doesn’t always apply to bureaucrats. As Daweo said, “greedy misers wind up paying double the original estimate.” Politically minded people in charge of arms development/procurement may have dismissed the EM-2 as “a broken thing of the past” when developing the SA80. Last time I checked, it appeared that the problem of the past happened again: “If it ain’t invented here and invented here NOW, we don’t accept it.” That was the same problem that plagued America and France a lot. Maxim, Spencer, Winchester, Snider, Gatling, and the Hotchkiss company got sidelined by stupid politically-minded officers who thought that any guns not designed and built by the government were little more than pampered poodles. Did any proper nation state win wars with guns designed and built exclusively by government-provided sources of intellect without private-sector/non-state-affiliated input? I’m not posting a trick question, please feel free to answer without holding back.

      • Hmm, I hear what you say. And there are always political rivalries inside of concerned groups. One against the other inside of military materiel acquisition establishments; most rarely rational.

        Just looking at that book Modern military Bullpup Rifles, there is right at first page picture of EM-2 in 7.62×51. In Introduction is said the following:
        “Fielded valiantly by the crack British military demo-team, the revolutionary ‘compact’ EM-2 nevertheless drew almost universal rejection from foreign trials teams and hidebound high ranking Army brass at the various Nato military trials of the fifties. Since then, however, time has proven the validity and the internationality of these compact concepts, originally brought to fruition by the late forties Enfield teams, and today several countries have actually adopted, and others are in the process of seriously evaluating, native designs which stem in concept directly from the EM-2.”

        True, there was significant time shift from EM-2 introduction to conception of SA80. And of course, militaries became professional instead originally consisting of draftees and with that came word “ambidextrous” among other novelties.

  3. Okay Ian, here is your challenge: which do you prefer? The UK .280 caliber EM-2 rifle? Or the US .276 caliber Garand rifle? Which one do you think is the better infantry combat rifle? Which one would you prefer to carry into battle?

  4. Some years back, I was lucky enough to be allowed to examine an EM2 which was part Sam Cummings’ collection at Interarms. It really was a handsome and comfortable rifle to hold, and balanced well for a bullpup. An SA80. by comparison, is very butt heavy and does not balance well at all.

    It is a real shame the EM2 and the .280 round were discarded, because I suspect that we would be using them to this day otherwise. It is particularly galling that, having foisted the 7.62mm on NATO, the USA adopted the 5.56mm within a few years.

  5. Ian, you won the internet!

    The effort in suppressing that smile at having gotten to shoot one… Priceless!
    This is the vicarious thrill content that brings folks back!

    IW in 4.85mm–looks pretty darn good from Ian’s appraisals. I don’t think the Brits were under any illusion that the “also ran” .280 ctdg. stood a chance of Nato adoption… And while the 5.56mm became the post-7.62x51mm Nato standard, it was the Belgian SS109/M855… Except for France. Her armed forces retained the M193 55gr. for quite some time.

    I love the heretical utterances about the 7.62x51mm! “But, but, muh M14!!”

  6. Hi Ian

    This is absolute great work. I know this has been asked before, but what was your opinion of the trigger pull compared to other bullpups you’ve tried out? The use of metal components and the short length of the trigger bar in the EM2 makes me suspect that trigger pull would be much closer to that of a conventional rifle. Given the trigger pull is often a major criticism of the bullpup design , this is worth noting if true.

  7. Hi Ian,

    what kind of version of the .280 did you shot, the original or the one more to the american liking aka the stronger ?



  8. it would be fun to build an em-2. i have already made a wildcat “.280 brit,” on what is basically a 7mm-08 with the shoulder moved back, and of a length to fit in an ar-15 magazine. not so oddly, standing next to a 6.8mm rem spc, my wildcat is hard to distinguish from the slightly smaller cartridge.

    my wildcat will not function in most mags, but steel mags from pri when slicked in a bit, seem to function well.

    btw, my little cartridge is not fussy to load. h-322 and imr 3031 work fine.

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